Monday, June 8, 2020

My Favorite Soup (and how to Ramen-ize it)

This soup is even better the next day! :)

This soup came into being about 4 years ago when I wanted to do something different with the baby bok choy in our CSA farm box. I love simply sauteing baby bok choy with garlic (so good) but sometimes I just need to change things up. At least three recipes were combined (based on what ingredients I had on hand) and I improvised the rest. It has since become one of our most favorite soups and it's always a treat when we have all of the stuff on hand to make it.

That said, like the several soups that inspired this one, it is very forgiving of substitutions. I've made it with kale instead of bok choy (not as good, but not bad), and I've even made it without the cooked chicken (still delicious but not as filling). I've made it with vegetable stock, rotisserie chicken, and dried mushrooms instead of fresh. When I had some leftover cooked brown rice in the fridge, I used that instead of ramen noodles.

The name is a mouthful, but what do you call something that is at it's most basic, Chicken Noodle Soup, but really is so much more? We pretty much just refer to it around here as "Mock Ramen Soup". It's decidedly not real ramen, but it is definitely delicious... and easy, super flavorful, and pretty darned healthy too.

Curried Chicken & Coconut Soup with Baby Bok Choy 
(and Optional Ramen Noodles)
Serves 4 large or 8 small portions

2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
10 oz  white button or cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 bunches of baby bok choy, thinly sliced (keep tops and thicker stem ends separated)
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp each: cumin, chili powder, and curry powder
4 cups chicken stock
1 can full-fat coconut milk
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped or shredded
juice from one small lime (or half of a larger lime)
1 good pinch sea salt
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
ramen noodles (optional, see below)
good quality soy sauce (our favorite is nama shoyu)

Optional additions (and when to add them)…
1 small red onion, thinly sliced or diced (sweat with garlic & ginger during step #1)
1 sweet potato, diced small (add with bok choy stems in step #1)
For a hit of heat try adding some Thai red curry paste (add just before the mushrooms in step #1)
1/2 Tbsp each: fish sauce + brown sugar (add at step #2, with the broth and coconut milk)
1 red bell pepper, julienned (add with the chicken in step #2)

1. Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven, over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and half of the minced ginger and cook, stirring, until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add in sliced mushrooms and bok choy stems, and cook for 3-5 minutes. When the liquid begins to evaporate, stir in the turmeric powder and the rest of the seasonings.

2. Add the broth, coconut milk, and remaining minced ginger. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer. Add cooked chicken pieces and lime juice, stirring occasionally until chicken is heated through, or up to 30 minutes.

3. Add sea salt and black pepper. Stir the bok choy leaves into the pot and let them wilt for a minute or two. Taste the broth and adjust if needed. Keep it less salty though if you will be using soy sauce in the bowls.

4. Divide soup into bowls over cooked noodles, if using (see below). Add soy sauce individually, to taste. Top each serving with any (or all) of the following garnishes.

fresh cilantro or basil leaves, chopped or torn
fresh chives, finely chopped
avocado, diced small 
fresh corn

Wanna Ramen-ize it?
Better noodles are certainly out there, but if you buy the instant ramen (like I do), be sure and get the square package (not the kind in a styrofoam cup), and throw away the seasoning packet—there's nothing good in there—the noodles are all we're after. Continue with the directions below.

Regardless of which noodles you use, if you're going to refrigerate or freeze some of the soup for later, cook only enough noodles for the current meal, separately, according to the package directions. Divide the hot cooked noodles between the bowls and continue with the serving step below.

Here's How:
About 5 minutes or so before serving the soup (just prior to step #3 above), drop the block (or two) of instant ramen noodles into the simmering soup pot. Let them cook, giving them a stir occasionally, until they're fat and happy. Taste test a noodle to check done-ness. Serve as soon as the noodles are ready.

Serve it up:
I generally use a big fork or tongs to pull out the cooked noodles and divide evenly into bowls, followed by a big scoop of the chicken and veggies, and finally a ladle or two of the broth over the top. Continue with step #4 above and be sure to provide chopsticks and/or forks alongside the soup spoons at the table.

...and don't forget to slurp the noodles!


PS... I know it's summer now, but honestly, I make this whenever I find myself with enough baby bok choy. If the weather is too warm for eating soup, I leave the noodles out and freeze the whole batch to enjoy at a later date. Heck, even in the summer we get the occasional chilly evenings, and unlike some soups, the flavors in this soup really are perfect year round!